How to understand people better: three psychological theories

How to understand people better: three psychological theories

Knowledge of the features of the psyche helps to communicate in any field, better understand both close people and friends. Here are three interesting psychological theories with which you can better interact with others, as well as understand yourself.

Dunbar Number
Researcher Robin Dunbar linked the activity of neocortex, the main cortex of the large hemispheres of the brain, to the level of social activity.

He looked at the size of social groups in different animals and the number of grooming partners (an important part of caregiving, such as hair-raising in primates).

It turned out that the size of neocortex was directly related to the number of individuals in the community and the number of those who cleaned each other (analogue of communication).

When Dunbar began researching people, he found that there were about 150 people in social groups. That means everyone has about 150 people they know who they can ask for help or provide them with something.

A close group is 12 people, but 150 social connections are a larger number. This is the maximum number of people we have contact with. If you know more than 150 people, some of the past connections go away.

We can put it another way:

These are people you wouldn’t mind drinking with in a bar if you happened to meet them there.

Writer Rick Lux tried to challenge Dunbar’s theory. He wrote about trying to do it:

“In trying to challenge Dunbar’s theory, I actually confirmed it. Even if you decide to challenge Dunbar’s number and try to expand your circle of acquaintances, you will be able to interact with more people, but that’s a lot of 200 people or even less.

This experience has allowed Lux to draw attention to close relationships:

“After my experiment, I felt respect for..:

  1. British anthropology.
  2. To my true friends.

I realized that there are not many of them, but now I treat them much better and appreciate them more”.

The Dunbar number will be particularly useful for marketers and people working in social media and branding. If you know that every person can only interact with 150 friends and acquaintances, it will be easier to respond to rejection.

Instead of getting angry and upset when people don’t want to communicate with you and support your brand, think about the fact that they only have 150 contacts. If they choose you, they have to give up someone they know. On the other hand, if people make contact, you will appreciate it more.

What about social media, where many have over a thousand friends? But with how many of them do you have any way of communicating? It’s likely the number is close to 150. As soon as you have new contacts, the old ones are forgotten and just hanging out with your friends.

Many people periodically clean their list and delete those they won’t communicate with, leaving only the people they care about. This is not quite right. The fact is that it is important not only strong connections, that is, your immediate environment. Morten Hansen’s book “Cooperation” describes how important for a person weak social contacts (in particular, those that are made through social networks). They are the key to new opportunities.

The study has shown that it is not so much the number of connections that matters for human development as the diversity of them. Among your acquaintances there should be people who hold opposite views, with different experiences and knowledge. And such a contingent is quite possible to find in a social network.

Weak connections are useful because they lead us into unfamiliar areas, while strong connections exist in areas already studied.

The Hanlon Razor
It’s a statement by Robert Hanlon, author of the Pennsylvania joke book, and it sounds like this:

Never attribute to evil intent anything that can be explained by foolishness.

In the Hanlon Razor you can replace the word “stupidity” with “ignorance”, i.e. lack of information before making a decision or an action. And here’s how it works: When you feel that someone is treating you badly or doing something mean to you, first dig deeper and see if it has anything to do with a trivial misunderstanding.

For example, if you received an email from an employee who is harshly opposed to your idea, maybe they just don’t understand it. And his resentment wasn’t directed at you, he only spoke out against an idea that seemed stupid or dangerous to him.

How to understand people better: three psychological theories

Moreover, it often happens that acquaintances try to help a person by their own methods, and he takes it as a sneaky act. People by nature are not evil creatures, so that behind every imaginary harm can hide good intentions, just ridiculously expressed.

Herzberg’s motivational factors
The latter theory can help in communicating with colleagues or even with friends and spouses. The concept was put forward in 1959 by Frederick Herzberg. Its essence is that satisfaction and dissatisfaction with work are measured differently, not being the two ends of the same line.

The theory assumes that dissatisfaction depends on hygienic factors: working conditions, salary, relationships with supervisors and colleagues. If they are not satisfied, dissatisfaction appears.

But work is not liked because of good hygienic factors. Satisfaction depends on a group of reasons (motivation), which include: pleasure at work, recognition and opportunities for growth.
We can deduce the following statement: working in a highly paid position with comfortable conditions, you can still feel lousy if, for example, you do not trust serious projects and do not notice the effort.

And the fact that you get recognition and realize the benefits of your actions will not compensate for the fact that you are paid a penny for this, forcing you to work in a terrible environment.

This theory is particularly useful for those in charge of personnel in a company. Now you will understand why people, despite good conditions, still quit.

For those who are dissatisfied with the job themselves, this theory will help you find out the reason for dissatisfaction and overcome it. Also, if your friends, family or acquaintances complain about the place of employment, you will never tell them: “But you are so well paid there! You’re mad at the fat, stay.” This step can be very important for their future.